Sunday, September 26, 2010

Narrow Minded Arrogance

Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.” Then Pilate said to him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.”  Pilate said to him, “What is truth?” (John 18:36-38 ESV)

As Christians we believe in absolute truth, an unchanging, non-negotiable reality that is independent from our own subjective experience. This Truth is demonstrated to us in the person of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, the very Word of God having come into the world in the flesh. He gives to us His Holy Spirit so that we would be led into the truth (John 14:16). We not only know that there is absolute truth but we can know the truth itself because God has revealed it to us. This gives us a basis for making consistent evaluations and judgments.

Unfortunately, many people have a view more like that of Pilate. Truth is seen as something that either doesn’t exist or is virtually impossible to get at. Postmodern philosophers tell us that there isn’t really any absolute truth but only subjective “truths”.  It is therefore aggravating to many that we have such confidence in our assertion that there can only be one single preeminent Truth. The question arises as to how we can be so narrow minded as to think that there is only one legitimate view of things and that everyone who believes differently from us is wrong. This is seen to be an arrogant and prideful approach to the opinion of others. It sounds like a more humble position to take the view that no person can possibly be certain about the truth claims or experience of any other so we should cling to our own convictions and not try to force them on others. This may sound like a more humble position but it is in fact an example of a tremendous arrogance.

There is a characteristic that makes certain beliefs of more value than others, namely whether they are in fact correct. If our beliefs are correct then to leave others in their ignorance is a bold indifference and neglect that would be totally inconsistent with what we know to be true. If we are correct then it is the most loving and humble thing we can do to share the gospel truth with others. Those who hide behind relativism and claim it is due to intellectual humility are being dishonest, even if with their own selves. Relativism, the belief that all beliefs are either equally valuable or that no single belief can be shown to be true, is dishonest and arrogant for at least two reasons.

First, it is dishonest because it is self-defeating both logically and practically. Plato, in his work Theaetetus includes a fictional dialogue between the philosophers Socrates and Protagoras that many of our current college professors would do well to read carefully. In doing so, he points out the self-defeating nature of a relativistic view.

Socrates: “So you believe that each man's opinion is as good as anyone else's?”

Protagoras: “That's correct.”

Socrates: “How do you make a living?”

Protagoras: “I am a teacher.”

Socrates: “I find this very puzzling. You admit you earn money teaching, but I cannot imagine what you could possibly teach anyone? After all, you admit that each person's opinion is as good as anyone else's. This means that what your students believe is as good as anything you could possibly teach them. Once they learn that each person is the measure of all things, what possible reason would they have to pay you for any further lessons? How can you possibly teach them anything once they learn that their opinions are as true as yours?”

As Plato so ably points out, the problem with saying that every view is equally valid is that it is self-defeating. Nothing could be learned or taught (including this view) because there are no longer objective criteria for determining what is true. If everything is true then by the same token everything is also false because the opposite of every truth is also true.

While people live with all sorts of contradictions no person actually lives with the assumption that every set of beliefs is equally valuable or viable. Everyone makes value judgments; the question is upon what basis they are made. A relativistic view is dishonest because nobody who teaches it or proclaims it actually follows it. Why then would so many people be attracted to this kind of thinking?

The answer is that by eliminating the pressure of any objective measure of truth and making each individual the ultimate judge of what is true they attempt to remove from themselves the recognition that there is a judge to whom they are accountable. If this kind of thinking is true then each person decides for themselves what is right and true. They effectively put themselves in the place of God. There can be no requirement to change or to act other than that which is self imposed. All moral decisions are then made in accordance with their own nature and judgment.

Brothers and sisters, we need to be very careful that we do not become prideful. We need to recognize that the knowledge we have is only due to the grace of God but we also need not be made to feel ashamed of the power of that knowledge. We must have the courage of our convictions and recognize that if the world hates us it hated our Lord before us. If you are clinging to the Truth of the bible with mercy and love then there can be no pride or arrogance because you recognize that it is all of grace. Clinging zealously to that truth is not prideful or arrogant. What is arrogant is for a creature to assert themselves as the standard truth rather than submitting to the God who created them. Let us therefore go forward and proclaim boldly that which has been entrusted to us.

Bring out the people who are blind, yet have eyes, who are deaf, yet have ears!

All the nations gather together, and the peoples assemble. Who among them can declare this, and show us the former things? Let them bring their witnesses to prove them right, and let them hear and say, It is true. “You are my witnesses,” declares the LORD, “and my servant whom I have chosen, that you may know and believe me   and understand that I am he. Before me no god was formed, nor shall there be any after me. I, I am the LORD, and besides me there is no savior. I declared and saved and proclaimed, when there was no strange god among you; and you are my witnesses,” declares the LORD, “and I am God.                                   (Isaiah 43:8-12 ESV)

1 comment:

  1. Thanks once again for a good post. I hope you're feeling better. I am so glad that God, the author of truth, sent His beloved Son, our Lord and Kind Jesus Christ. Take care of yourself. Take a few days off and heal up.